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Media crisis turns into Pemra chaos

Updated May 21, 2014 07:45am


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ISLAMABAD: The media crisis that has been gripping the nation for a month took a turn for the worse on Tuesday evening when a meeting held by a few members of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) announced the suspension of three licences — Geo News, Geo Entertainment and Geo Tez — of Geo network.

However, after an hour of statements and counter-statements and utter confusion, the management of the authority said that the meeting itself was illegal, adding that any decisions taken by it were null and void.

The chaos and confusion began on Tuesday evening when Pemra member Israr Abbasi, flanked by other members, Mian Shams and Fareeha Iftikhar, announced their decision to the media waiting in front of Pemra headquarters.

Mr Abbasi announced that the Pemra board had decided to suspend the licences of the three television channels owned by the Geo TV network and ordered that the television channels offices be sealed.

However, he added that the final decision on the revocation of the licences will be announced on May 28, when the next Pemra meeting is to be held which will also be attended by government representatives.

Tuesday’s meeting was not attended by any of the seven government officials who are also part of Pemra’s board. Only the private members representing the four provinces and AJK / GB attended the meeting.

After suspension of Geo TV licence by three members, Pemra management disowns the decision

“The Council of Complaints in its meeting held in Karachi today has recommended that the licence of Geo Entertainment be cancelled over its sacrilegious morning show as over 10,000 public complaints were received against it,” Mr Abbasi said, adding that “another complaint has already been received from the ministry of defence against Geo News.”

Geo’s legal troubles include one complaint against the manner in which it accused the ISI of being involved in the attack on journalist Hamid Mir and the morning show which is seen to have hurt religious sentiments.

“All members unanimously decided that the licence for Geo News be cancelled. However, due to a legal formality that could not be completed, we have sent our recommendations to the Council of Complaints, advising that they respond before May 28, the date for our next meeting,” Mian Shams told the media during the briefing.

In the media blitz that followed the Pemra members insisted that their decision was legal and that the channels would have to shut down at midnight.

Fareeha Iftikhar, another member, said that the meeting was legal and the required quorum, under clause 4 of Pemra Ordinance, of one third members had been met – according to her, five out of 12 members attended the meeting.

“In the absence of the chairman, the board is the authority that can take such decisions,” she argued, adding that “Geo will be shut down from tonight and if the channel management does not abide by the board decision, we will approach the courts.”

However, it was not long before another announcement was made, taking the wind out of the assertions made by the five members who attended the Pemra meeting.

A statement issued on the directives of Executive Member Kalimuddin Tipu disowned the decisions announced by Mr Abbasi and others.

This statement was later sent to the press from the government’s Public Information Department, making it clear which side the government stood with.

“It is also clarified that today’s meeting was called without following the laid down procedures and thus had no legal standing. According to Rule 3(4) of Pemra Rules 2009, the Chairman or... at least 07 members can call a meeting. This was an informal meeting attended by five members,” the Pemra press release said.

The spokesman of Pemra said that the decision had no legal validity. It was further pointed out that a meeting could not be held till the law ministry responded.

“The meeting was to be held after legal opinion had been received from the law ministry, as was decided in the last meeting held on May 9.”

This view was later upheld by the Information Minister, Pervez Rashid, who also holds the law portfolio.

He told Dawn that a meeting could only be called by any two of the three member committee headed by Pervaiz Rathore.

“Incidentally, Pervaiz Rathore and Ismail Shah were missing and Mr Israr Abbasi had already resigned from this committee so how could he have called a board meeting,” the minister added.

At the last meeting, Mr Abbasi had walked out and threatened to quit because his suggestions were being ignored.

However, Mr Israr Abbasi continued to stick to his guns and insist that the meeting was legal.

Mir Shakeel moves IHC

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Geo TV, Mir Shakeelur Rehman, moved the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday for quashment of an FIR registered against him for alleged blasphemy and terrorism for airing controversial contents.

Following an order passed by an additional district and sessions judge on May 17, Margalla Police of Islamabad had registered the FIR against Mr Rehman, Geo TV anchor Shaista Lodhi, actress Veena Malik and her husband Asad Bashir Khattak for allegedly profaning holy personages in a programme aired on May 14.

In his petition, Mr Rehman stated that after the airing of the programme, Ms Lodhi apologised more than 26 times; on the contrary a rival channel, ARY News, repeated the same programme over 60 times.

The petitioner stated that because blasphemy laws have become more stringent, there was a tendency to label the accusation of blasphemy by Muslims against Muslims for settling their scores.

He said that he did not play any role in script writing, production or direction of the said episode even then he has been implicated in the case.

The single-judge IHC bench of Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui will hear the matter on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2014

Comments (27) Closed

GA May 21, 2014 07:48am

What a farce. Can we now officially declare this country an unfixable basket case?

Funny Bone May 21, 2014 07:58am

It's an asinine comedy. This shows lack of discipline and decision making on the part of our institutions. Our leadership at all levels have become paralyzed. Whether it's a matter of PEMRA or PCB, this paralysis is badly exposing Noon Leagues poor governance.

Kashif May 21, 2014 08:00am

What a joke. U turns were invented in Pakistan!

aaa May 21, 2014 08:13am

Never a dull moment in pakistan. Geo, PCB musharaff, PTI dharna, TUQ.

imtiaz May 21, 2014 08:14am

Pemra just sending feelers. media winning as an institution versus army is in Pakistan's interest.

Sayyar Khan May 21, 2014 08:50am

First PCB, now PEMRA , the whole country is turning into a big joke.

Jalaluddin S. Hussain May 21, 2014 09:06am

@aaa But then what happens to the resolution of real problems like poverty, health and education?

Shehz May 21, 2014 09:13am

Is this a satire? An FIR has been filed, arrest the politicians who are obstructing justice.

M.A.Shah May 21, 2014 09:17am

As long as Nawaz Sharif is in power through a 'punctured election' nothing good is going to happen to the country and daily new problems are going to crop up. This is also one of his achievements. How can he let his media tv channel be banned?

noon May 21, 2014 09:38am

@M.A.Shah And you think things would have been different if any one else was in power...I'm pretty sure even if PTI was in power they would not have changed much, the reason being we as a nation fail to realize our mistakes and learn from them. We are more interested in what others are doing rather than focusing on what we should be doing!!!!

Aussie May 21, 2014 09:45am

Within 60+ years this country has turned into Clownistan.

Karim Mombani May 21, 2014 09:49am

I don't know what are they waiting for.......... Place the charges man........ whats taking you so long........

Polpot May 21, 2014 10:17am

PCB...PEMRA....Why is there so mucvh chaos in Pakistan?

Kazmis May 21, 2014 10:18am

What a show. Cox fight and the actual fighting parties are sitting behind and watching the show along with the world.

abdulaziz May 21, 2014 10:19am

Somebody said he was gonna halve corruption in 9 days. Great!

Khuram Nisar May 21, 2014 10:36am

They shouldn't ban GEO but suspend it for THREE months and put restrictions on it for example; GEO should stop its operations for THREE months in the world and pay the due taxes to the Government; That should make GEO and other channels better. Also, it would strengthen the PEMRA.

IMM May 21, 2014 10:37am

It will be very unfortunate if Gew News is banned and its license is cancelled. It will land the country on a very unfortunate position. Hope justice is done with Gew News and its sisters channels, not to be banned.

sarah shah May 21, 2014 10:46am

this is nothing more than a game played by government just to please isi and public just for a while...ultimately government is with geo

Malikpur Janderbari Abbottabad May 21, 2014 11:12am

I am surprised to see the drama of PEMRA members and above comments of friends.. why we forget that all tv channels like ARY, Express, Aaaj etc. have done the same in near past. why PEMRA, so called civil society or religious activists waiting geo to do the similar mistake and they catch it..... isn't the unseen force is behind all this episode. if punishment is necessary all these TV channels must be banned or heavily fined and given warning that they should not aired any objectionable or hattered material as ARY is doing for almost all issues. All ARY talk shows except Kashif Abbasi are biased and openly calling military to intervene the democratic system.

WajihUllah May 21, 2014 11:13am

@GA You have all the bets in your favour!

Albany May 21, 2014 11:20am

This exemplifies the lack of discipline, direction and governance on part of ruling class which is not surprising as every appointment at key position is done against merit. All the sensible Pakistanis are either leaving the country or they are being killed. God help this country

Pune-MH May 21, 2014 11:37am

Banned Geo channel proved that don't speak against ISI and their Army.

Husain Jan May 21, 2014 12:24pm

@Khuram Nisar But many other channels, especially ARY are much more guilty by airing the video dozens of times how come only Geo is being suggested to be punished ? Pemra seems to act like deaf and dumb when it comes to complaints against ARY. How so very smart - the Pemra - aren't they ?

Farooq May 21, 2014 01:54pm

for a rare sight, the people of the country get united on a issue close to their heart and stand up peacefully, The incompetence of Mr. Sharif and his government. His cronies are so damn afraid and busy brown-nosing that no one wants to be associated with the unpopular but right decision. EVERYONE knows GEO has an agenda towards the army and ISI and Musharaf. Shame on GEO for ruining it for other channels and journalists.

Shahzad Ahmed May 21, 2014 01:54pm

Applogies won't do if you have violated any law you must be punished. Jang group has crossed the red line millions of people out there waiting for the closure of group if government does not then there will be chaos and civil unrest as well better close the channel and redefine PEMRA laws and implement them in letter and in spirite.

haris May 21, 2014 02:20pm

and the puppet show continues...

Ahmed May 21, 2014 03:11pm

Lolz .. The Chairman/Executive should immediately leave his seat if he is no longer in control of what his organization is doing. But i think it is more of a defensive statement that he has given, side-lining himself and blaming juniors - it happens all the time. Infact in my opinion MKR is very well aware of what his organization is doing. Management of any organization has to follow vision laid down by executives. MKRF and Geo/Jang was strategically targeting and campaigning against religious laws (and other matters) for long... do you remember that 2013's leaked document from MKRF to U.S in which Geo's campaign against religious laws was proudly owned and financial assistance was requested for future campaigns. It is still available over the internet.